The Broomcloset Interviews Jeff Stewart
Designer of Space Quest 0: Replicated
On June 25, 2003, Space Quest fans around the world were introduced to a new chapter in the galactic misadventures of Roger Wilco: Space Quest 0: Replicated. An adventure game in the classic Sierra On-Line tradition, Space Quest 0 seemed to appear from nowhere and quickly took Space Quest fandom by storm. Attached to this project was a name unfamiliar to Wilco fanatics: Jeff Stewart. So, who is Jeff Stewart? Jeff is the one-man team responsible for the design, writing, graphics, and programming of SQ0. I recently had an opportunity to chat with Jeff about his project. Here's what he had to say...
Decaffeinated Jedi: Obviously, you're a devoted fan of the Space Quest games. Tell us a little about your personal Space Quest experience. When did you first come into contact with the series? What's your favorite Space Quest game?
I got Space Quest 2 for Christmas, along with a lightning fast Tandy
1000HX, and I was hooked. I enjoyed SQ1 the most, though.
Jess: What made you decide that you wanted to design your own Space Quest game?
I was tired of waiting for a professional Space Quest revival. I had
a bit of free time, a bit of knowledge in most basic game development
disciplines, and a desire to create. Of the genres, adventure games seem to
be the easiest to make, and I was just hoping to learn something along the
Jess: What were some of your inspirations (other than Space Quest, obviously) in writing and designing SQ0?
More recent mainstream movies like the Matrix and Star Wars were an
inspiration, as well as cult hits like Heavy Metal. I pulled ideas from
anything I thought I could steal from successfully.
Jess: From start to finish, how long did it take you to finish SQ0?
Jeff: The conception phase took about 2-3 weeks. Some of my designs proved
to be either too elaborate (I'm lazy) or too obscure. The rest of the
project kind of just flowed on from there. It took around 3 months of late
evenings (when I felt like working on it).
Jess: Were there any major changes to the game during the design process? Any sequences that you planned that didn't make it into the final product?
Jeff: I planned to have a Mario Brothers clone you could play at Monolith called
"Pinkun Brothers," and Galaga-style sequence later with Roger being chased
by police. These wouldn't have been too difficult to implement, but I
started getting too busy at work, and wanted to finish the project before I
ran out of "inspiration."
Jess: Why did you choose to design SQ0 in AGI?
Jeff: It's the only way to play, baby. I like the parser. It forces you
to think creatively, rather than being a click-spaz. The low resolutions
and simple game mechanics also meant implementation time would be
Jess: Was SQ0 your first game-design effort?
Jeff: No. I've worked in game development for a few years now, and have a
hard drive full of experimental personal ideas, but I regard it as the first
"full sized" game I've produced from start to finish.
Jess: The development of SQ0 was kept under wraps for the most part. Was there any particular reason that you chose to keep the project a secret until it was ready for release?
Jeff: Call me crazy, but there seems to be a fuzzy link between making a
game, and marketing a game. I tend to spend a lot of creative energy
explaining an idea to people, and I think it takes that energy away from the
game. The same relationship can be seen in companies that spend a lot on
marketing versus those that make a good game and don't need to spend a lot
of money to convince you to buy it. I think having that little "secret" to
myself helped take off some of the pressure of people wanting it released,
Jess: Of all the puzzles in SQ0, which one are you most proud of? Is there anything in the game that you wish you had done differently?
Jeff: I liked the idea behind the guard ambush in the spaceport, and the
light saber fight. I tried to implement more than a few different kinds of
games/puzzles, something I think a good adventure game should be able to do.
Jess: Speaking of puzzles, it's obvious from playing SQ0 that you went to great
lengths to eliminate any deadends--a common problem in many early Sierra
games--and include multiple solutions to many puzzles. Was this an
important design goal for you?
I would like to have teams of talent at my fingertips, implementing
my every desire, yes. On the contrary, if you want something done right. I'm not completely satisfied with the details, but I'm proud of the game as a
Jeff: I think its safe to say that I did go to great lengths to do this,
even changing the fiction in areas, to avoid the "saving and loading game."
This is difficult thing to do most times for me. Hopefully the few fairly
simplistic situations in this game have helped me get better at it.
Jess: Following a news posting at Slashdot on June 29, Replicated "hit it
big" with over 12,000 downloads in a single day. What was your reaction to
this sudden wave of virtual fame? Did you ever expect your work to reach
that many gamers?
Jess: That brings us to the big question: what's next? Are there any plans in
the works for a follow-up to Replicated?
Jeff: Never. I considered this project to be a sort of "present" for
fellow AGI developers, Space Quest fans, and the like, as well as a personal
exercise. This was very surprising, and humbling. My buddies at work got a
kick out of it, too.
Jeff: I'm always experimenting with something, playable or not. I've
personally exhausted this concept for now, but I can't say it's dead to me.
I've got other things in the works, none of which are really similar, but
Jess: Numerous industry sources have pronounced adventure gaming dead in recent years. What do you see as the future of the genre? Where do fan games fit
Jeff: Adventure gaming is one of the simplest forms of pc gaming (excluding
shooting galleries). For me, personally, these genres rotate like fashions.
I like all types of games. I certainly hope that in some form, adventure
games live on, if only as an integrated concept within a more complex game
design. In many ways, adventure gaming never left, it only got merged into
Jess: What advice would you offer to other would-be fan-game designers?
I personally play many more fan games than published games in a given
month. Implementation is often crude in fan games, but there is an
abundance of creative freedom.
Jeff: Sleep is your friend. Put down the snacks.
Jess: Thanks for your time! Any parting words for the growing legions of SQ0 fans out there?
Jeff: I want to thank everyone for playing. I'd like to give a shout-out
to Nick Sonneveld for helping me playtest, Jess and Dee for hosting this
thing, and big kiss to my wife for being so understanding. Oh, and don't
quit playing! It gets better, I promise!
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